What you need to know:
- Hopping for adventure. A would-be tourism city in the east of Uganda seems barely active at night, writes Gabriel Buule.
Last month, I went on a road trip to Jinja City. Ideally, it would be two-hours’ drive but the traffic jam could not let it be and our driver worsened it when he took two hours to pick us up from the National Theatre, our departure point.
Few minutes past 9pm, we embarked on our journey to Jinja using all possible shortcuts to beat the traffic jam on Jinja Road from the city centre. At Kireka, we diverted to Namugongo lane via Ssonde and we ended up in Seeta then, Mukono where traffic was a bit relaxed.
The road always busy with cargo trucks to and from Kampala seemed smooth until the first traffic stop and the traffic police minded more about cargo vehicles, meaning we were left to freely pass by the roadblock. Conscious of accidents and reckless drivers in Mabira Forest, we slowed down.
We made a pit stop at Namawojjolo Trading Centre at 11pm. There, we grabbed pieces of roadside roasted chicken and we embarked on our journey.
After a few kilometres away, the team suggested that we drive back for more chicken, which we did and resumed our journey.
We are in Jinja
The sound of River Nile bubbled as we approached the Nile Bridge which is illuminated with lights that reflect in the waters of the longest river in the world. We did not have an exact destination but our mission was to experience and discover the night life in Jinja City.
A friend in Jinja notified us that he was at Two Friends’ Lounge and Restaurant where we headed to. Time check 12.02 am. When we arrived, his phone was suddenly off and the security guard at the premises informed us that the chefs were asleep.
Some streets had no lights while others were well-lit. Our next stop was Pitstop Bar where a handful of revellers were dancing to lulling music.
As we continued to adventure, at Nile Avenue we found the first rolex stall and presumably the only active fast food stall at that time.
One of our travel partners, Joan Mulunji was too exhausted to proceed with us and we took her to a hotel into which we booked for the night. The hotel administrator asked us to negotiate our own fee since it all looked like he had not expected business in the night.
From the few people we met, we learnt that night life in Jinja can only manifest on calendar holidays or big events such as Nyege Nyege festival.
The city sleeps
At around 1.50 am, we drove to Galaxy Auto Spa Bar in the city centre, where we found an almost empty bar with almost silent music and a few other people strolling outside.
We realised that the bar was almost closing since most of the clients had left. We then proceed to Café 48 on Nile Crescent Road. This is presumably the most upscale club in the area and the mood somehow meets our expectations. We noticed several familiar faces from Kampala as they left the bar.
The revellers seemed to be visitors from different parts of the country.
A waiter, initiated a conversation after realising that we were not patrons.
“Jinja is not Kampala where every day is a party. Here, we have to wait for public holidays or get shocked when many people turn up. Nights are unpredictable,” he explained.
We were tipped that there was party at the Office Bar on Nile Avenue only to find a birthday party-like mood.
Some reggae at last but…..
We left for Nalufenya Road in the city centre to D’ Fantasy Lounge. Few metres to the lounge, we nearly ram into a reckless Subaru driver whose car blared music. Here, were ladies in micro minis and thick make-up in all corners. Some boldly approached us and mentioned ‘their’ prices.
“Let’s get together and feel alright” this is the line off the late Bob Marley’s song One love that welcomed us into the hangout.
However, we looked out of place as many looked like the folk we had left out looking for ‘clients’. A bystander indicated to us that it was all about that time of the night and such trade booming.
This is also a hot pit stop in the city, especially for the truck drivers. We had to leave before getting caught in the thick of things.